Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, CA is one of the great local surf spots. It sit in the shadow of a light house just below winding cliffs. Santa Cruz also has a notoriously territorial surf culture - high in attitude and low in hospitality. Over last Christmas break, it wasn’t very crowded, it felt safe, the swell was 4-6 feet, and sounded fun. So, I took my teenage son and niece to surf this spot even though it’s not really a beginner surf break.
Famous last words.
My niece is from Colorado who’d only surfed a couple times before but my son would also paddle out as I watched atop the cliff. Like life, the surf has a way of pushing you in a direction you don’t want to go, much less control. At first it was fine but she ended up getting pushed aggressively toward and into the rocks. In a panic, she found small cut-out along cliff as waves pounded. This was not the adventure-instagram-moment she/we had in mind. She was in trouble and I was in no position to help her.
But then a surfer–turned–angel saw what was happening. He paddled over and began to lead her out of harm’s way. Leaving her board behind at his command, he guided her a couple hundred yards - using his longboard - against the surge to safety amid the cliffs and crashing surf. Her board was in pieces. She was tired, shaking, and scared. But the care of this local surfer was amazing. It seemed to do more for him than the thought of any missed waves. He chose another’s care and made his (and our) day. He sacrificed what was valuable for something that was precious. In this way, I believe his action was, in fact, sacred.
This stranger came alive – like he had a purpose – beyond his own surfing enjoyment at the thought of caring for another. Compassion is a remarkable gesture in that it can bless or renew life to both the giver and recipient. Over the last few weeks, we’ve had a chance to experiment with acts of compassion – from saving daily expenditures to handing out gift cards to seeing needs, opportunities and our own resources differently. Perhaps this might inspire a New-And-Sustained Normal.